In most ways, England’s exceedingly comfortable victory over Bangladesh was entirely to be expected, and occurred more or less as it should have, given the difference in playing resources. But England’s defeat to a Pakistan team who consistently send people to a thesaurus to check for synonyms for “mercurial” lent a slight air of doubt about how well England are equipped to win the competition. It’s the natural state of being for most England supporters to be pessimistic about their team’s prospects, having been magnificently unsuccessful in ODIs for 40 years, even when they’ve had a good team. But just as one defeat oughtn’t have led to increased resignation that it would all happen again, nor should this dominant display lead to any greater certainty about their prospects.
England are a very fine team indeed, with a batting line up that has now broken an all time ODI record by passing 300 six matches in a row. That is a fine level of consistency, and a mark of how far they’ve come in the last few years that the 311 in the South Africa game felt a disappointing total, and the 386 today a return to what might have been expected. For a team as good as England’s, reaching the semi-final stage ought to be reasonably straightforward, and from that point knock out cricket is an entirely different beast. That’s not to say that England are definitely going to qualify, for the matches against Australia, West Indies, New Zealand and India are fraught with peril. But it is to say that a side with aspirations of winning the competition ought to be confident. There are two ways of looking at it – that all of those games are a danger, certainly, but with six wins likely to be enough, two victories in the bag, and barring major surprises, wins against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan to come, England should only need two victories against the heavyweights.
Bangladesh are of course one of the lesser fancied teams in the competition, but they are not the minnows of years past either (though it must be noted those minnows despatched England in both 2011 and 2015), and despite falling a long way short of England’s total today, they still showed they are far from a poor side. A routine win, certainly, but one made routine because of how good England were.
Jason Roy was the star of England’s innings, his 153 coming off a mere 121 balls, and fairly evenly paced from the start. Even after such a score, the manner of his dismissal caused a degree of disquiet, which perhaps goes to show little has really changed. Having hit the first three balls of Mehidi’s over for six, Roy clearly had every intention of aiming for six sixes in the over. The fourth ball was every bit as much there to hit as the previous three, but he lost his shape and skied it. It wasn’t an outrageous shot, by any stretch, so it was more a matter of execution than intent, and there is always the danger in basing judgements on outcome. “Great shot, great shot, great shot, you idiot£ is an invariably unfair way of looking at it. Still, it can be argued that he was seeking a personal milestone rather than a team one in so doing. Perhaps that is a fairer point to make, but it does apply to most batsmen much of the time, it is often a matter of degree. The intent though, and the sheer confidence behind it, were welcome.
Bairstow and Root performed their supporting roles well, while Jos Buttler, promoted up the order, was as explosive as ever. One particular shot, his weight entirely on the back foot, was utterly outrageous – a straight hit out of the ground and into the river Taff. The joy of watching a special talent in any sport is not so much in seeing exceptional competence, it is in watching someone do something that leaves the observer scratching his or head and wondering how the hell he’s done it. Such players are rare and precious.
Of more concern was Buttler’s clear discomfort during his innings, and while his practising his wicketkeeping in the interval to see how fit he was to do so was reassuring, it was surely sensible for him to have the second half off and let Bairstow take the gloves. England are a strong side, and not reliant on one player, but Buttler adds an X Factor that cannot be replaced. The England medical team will doubtless play down any worries, but as was once said in a different context, there is a massive trust issue there.
After a slight collapse around the 340 mark (it remains ludicrous such numbers are regular landmarks in an England side) the innings was finished off in some style by Liam Plunkett, whose late innings hitting has been a precious resource for England on a fair few occasions.
387 was always likely to be beyond Bangladesh, and so it proved. Jofra Archer produced a peach to dismiss Soumya Sarkar, the ball flying off the top off of stump and over the boundary without bouncing. Incidentally, it’s worth noting that those who deride critics of the game being behind a paywall often pipe up that clips on social media are an adequate substitute in the modern world. The clip of that happening did indeed get lots of attention in a tweet:
Note that the upload of a few seconds of action has now been deleted by the rights holder, an act consistent with the ongoing removal of historical cricket content on Youtube, and the act of commercial entities and a cricket structure that has no idea how to market itself to a wide audience. Football might do the same thing to some extent, but not to the extent cricket does.
Archer bowled swiftly, with serious threat and with intelligence as well. Whatever the comment around his qualification for England, he has added a significant new dimension to this side.
Bangladesh didn’t wilt, the increasingly impressive Shakib scoring a fine century, but the ever rising required run rate meant that the outcome of the game was in little doubt. Woakes was a bit expensive, but Archer and Stokes in particular looked dangerous. England are back on track, and have nearly a week off before facing a highly dangerous West Indies team.
But so far, overall, not too bad.